Corporations are Machines and Cities are Networks… sort of.

In the article “Why do corporation die so soon and cities don’t? Corporations are Machines and Cities are Networks“, Robert Paterson makes a great point about network focused organizations.

“As I write this I am thinking of how WordPress works. At the core of WordPress is a for profit organization – but also one of the tasks of Automattic is to ensure the health of an ecosystem that is the larger WordPress ecology…”

Matt Mullenweg and Automattic have done a masterful job of wedding profit and open source. The best way to find out whether or not users want what you’re making is to see if they’ll pay for it. Automattic does that. The get people to pay for stuff, then they make most of it open source. That’s a network that is likely to be around for a long time. I think they’ve combined the best of for profit ventures with the community driven open source.

“I see no way now that Wikipedia will not be here in 50 years.”

I’d rather put money on WordPress… Wikipedia just has its hand out on the street corner. IF they figure out how to build a for profit enterprise, alongside the free Wikipedia, I’ll get on board.

“Cities are much more open as systems and networks. They are much closer to being alive than corporations that rely too much on command and control.”

With respect to cities not acting as command and control enterprises… well, try to negotiate with your water department. Better yet, grab a copy of your city building codes and review it at Starbucks with some friends. Then submit your proposed changes and tell me how that goes. City government is one of the best examples of command and control I can think of. I couldn’t disagree more with his comparison in that regard. Cities stick around so long because they can grow at will, tax at will and regulate everything within their boundaries. Furthermore, the cost of change is enormous compared to switch from one company to the next. I can decide to buy Nike rather than Addidas, but moving to another city is much more difficult.

The last thing I’d say about corporations dying is that we should consider the role of founders and CEO’s. People have lifespans and corporations are really about people. When you lose the founder, or the very charismatic CEO, you lose more than body. For many companies, the soul rests with the founder.



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